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The Tell-Tale House of Usher takes Edgar Allan Poe's characters Roderick and Madeleine Usher and roots them firmly in a place, Boston and a time, the 1840's, when violence and radical social and religious movements were expanding the borders of the United States both physically and meta-physically. This was the age of the great American meta-physicists: Poe, Thoreau, Emerson, Melville – none of these could rival the Ushers with their insights into the deep unknown and their uncanny abilities that defied human understanding. Condemned by familial curse, they were preyed upon by every manifestation of evil; by otherworldly beings who regard human kind as nothing but open wounds that facilitate passage from one world to another.

The Ushers were a triumvirate – brother, sister and Usher House itself, a sentient heap of construction whose fabric was the same as any other building but it was animate. It was made of brick but the brick was mortared with malevolence. It was framed with wood whose fibers had sipped poison from stagnant pools. Iron held its doors and windows but the strap-work clung to them like smothering vines that bore fruits of corrosion and the dead weight of the manor’s stones mingled with the rotted corpses of Usher ancestors forming the foundation and the crypt one in the other, running like roots deep into the brimstone of Hell.

In these tales, through their adventures and tribulations, the Ushers come into contact with every character and situation that issued forth from the mind of Poe and they share byways with the man himself. The role of narrator is taken by their childhood friend, Edmund Highgate, a master of architectural memory and practice, of spaces without and within the mind. And when Roderick and Madeleine die, and die they must as preordained by their creator, are they truly dead? Or has Edmund unwittingly imprisoned them in his mind among the warehouses and palaces of his memories?

This volume of the series contains an introduction to the Usher world and a recounting of the strange story of an Egyptian after-life that looks nothing like the hopeful scenes one might find on the walls of a tomb. Hatotep, a character as sensational as any to be found in a penny dreadful, was a gentleman of the Middle Kingdom who, after three thousand years, could still enjoy life's small, sensual pleasures. He had a taste for beer and a dry wit but tragedy had marked him; in his own words he provides a sounding of the depths of his soul when he relates a tale of brutal slaughter and the horrible revenge he wreaks on the murderers.

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